A True Story and Real Life Dilemma

oppossum

The following is a true story. By the time this is posted, I will have added a photo. For now, the story is more important:

Early in our camping experience last summer, my granddaughter and I heard my Jack Russell Terrier barking and came upon a baby opossum peeking out from behind our generator bin. It was frightened and clearly a bit young to be wandering around on its own.
I called the dog off and she scampered out of sight. (I say “she” because Nature makes females a bit more sturdy and independent early on. I will never know her true gender but my guess is an educated one.)
She appeared once more that day around our log splitter. This uncharacteristic sighting made me snap a photo and assume “something” had happened to her mother. When I told my husband, he said he had seen a dead baby opossum in the nearby bushes, the day before. Seems my “guess” had more legitimacy after that.
It was Sunday, and we were hours from leaving for home. I had learned from other lessons of interfering with Nature, that my human instinct to “get involved” was not always wise for either the wild animal or for my heart. I felt I just HAD to give her a chance. She had survived, so far, and although I could not take responsibility for her, I didn’t have to all-together turn my back.
Just before I left, I took a large handful of dry dog food and piled it, undercover, near the generator bin. With a heavy heart, I went home.
The next week, the dog food and opossum were gone.
I thought of her often throughout the summer. I also accepted the “not knowing” of what happened to her a mixed blessing.
Around the middle of October, my dog came strutting back to my campsite with a prize catch. My heart sank! He had caught and killed a juvenile opossum. It was from under the place where I had, months before, left the dog food. Even this moment, my heart is racing and my stomach is turning at the telling of an “almost” triumphant tale.
I have little doubt that the opossum was the orphan I had met in June. She HAD survived but had not learned enough to continue to survive.
This winter’s harshness has made me consider her violent end a possible blessing against the option of freezing or starving. Without a mother, her instincts may not have well prepared her.
The moral of this story, that I hold on to, is that I HAD cared. That I HAD tried to help. I couldn’t (and shouldn’t) have done more and that I really need to let go of the heart-sickening guilt I keep revisiting.
There would be those who would say, “You didn’t care or do enough.”
I would beg to differ.
The sick feeling in my stomach while writing this is still there.
I also had asked myself a number of questions. Here’s a few:
Can I find her in time?
Is her mother temporarily trapped in a dumpster and might she return?
How could I safely capture and transport her in the same car as my dog?
Would I really be offering her a better life by interfering?
Would my husband’s opinions on my decision matter?
Is there a law against bringing wild animals into a day care setting?
Would the Animal Hospital accept her?
How terrified would she be in all this?
Yes…I DID care deeply but I knew that caring didn’t give me the “right” to affect absolute changes nor did it protect me from possibly doing more harm than good.
I’ve learned a lot from this experience. I hope in telling this story, “little opossum’s”, AND my dilemma, speaks to you.
Don’t forget…I also may be wrong in my conclusion that every sighting of an opossum was the SAME opossum. And that my friends, is where hope lives.

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Once upon a time…

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I happened upon a vendor, at the flea market, this weekend. She was selling old beaten, yet still useful, metal trucks. My heart was happy at the memories stirred by these relics. Days spent riding them over the grass hills of my backyard with my brother. Tumbling and laughing …oblivious of their sharp edges and lead paint…we used them in the unintended ways kids do with toys.
Out of nowhere, I remembered Halloween and the fun we had roaming our neighborhood until 10:00 pm! I reminisced for a moment with the vendor. We shared a happy talk of pillowcases filled with candy and the knowing we were safe because we knew our neighbors.
“Now, Halloween is limited to an hour and a half .” I sighed. “Oh well, the kids won’t miss what they never had, I guess.”  I walked away with a heavy heart.

The next vendor had a metal Popgun for sale. He wanted $20.00 for memory’s sake and I held the toy, not daring to buy, but allowing myself the memories of me, as Annie Oakley once again. Jamming the barrel with dirt that would go off, with a pop and a puff, was not the intended use, of course. Such happy times…

I’d just had a birthday so reminiscing was near, anyway. The rest of the morning held flashbacks to the happiest times riding in the back of pick-up trucks and on top of hay wagons, with the breeze and treetops at my cheek.
Building campfires on an old dirt road and learning to swim without life vests in the ponds and creeks, came back. Using a wood-burning set without incident and at an “inappropriate” age and the “Thing Maker” with molten goop producing plastic bugs. Riding an, at least 1000 lb horse, bareback at the age of 6 and wandering about the cows, who weighed the same, without fear nor injury because I had been taught about caution. Oh yes, and building bows with arrows of sharpened sticks with the Barlow pocketknife grandpa bought for me. Building jumps for my spider bike and riding with no hands…feet upon the handles…producing some scrapes and bruises, but what a ride! Climbing to the tops of trees and silos and getting scared but holding tight and cheering “like a gold medalist” when I, once again, found the ground.
These things are dangerous and won’t happen any more…why? Because no modern child would attempt them. They haven’t any way to test themselves…to learn caution as they grow by “uping” the ante of self-reliance. All they know is “You mustn’t try. You mustn’t risk. Your judgement is flawed.Don’t get hurt.”
Kids are taught to fear, now.  A fine beginning to taming them…self-reliance is dangerous, you know.
Wild colts can turn into sheep.

Kids won’t miss, what they never had…

The Positive Power of Peer Pressure

tex playing video games

tex playing video games (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Competition for kids is not only good for them, it is essential to their well-being.
The approach of parents and schools to reduce competition is, in my opinion, misguided. It seems to me that as in many things, nowadays, the real value is overlooked in favor of “kindness”.

Johnny wins the spelling bee. Sally tried very hard, studied very hard and wanted the shiny medal very much. She cries for a moment when she loses. Johnny, on the other hand, jumps up and down and shakes the medal at Sally.

First, crying and being disappointed isn’t fatal. But let the scene play out.

Johnny’s applause fades quickly (due to his flaunt) and classmates move in to console Sally and give her an “atta girl” rally. If she cries for too long, though, she’ll learn sympathy has a limit.

To interrupt what seemed to be a cruel scene in the beginning, would have stripped every kid of lessons in sportsmanship and human decency.

Johnny feels embarrassed for flaunting and sorry for Sally, whom he never intended to hurt. All the kids, notice that. Sally got the reward of friendship and support. All the kids, notice that too. Both kids survive the event with a clear message that losing is not the worst but poor sportsmanship is ugly. 

Society has weakened the effectiveness of peer pressure by regarding it as, primarily, negative. I’m asking you to consider what we lose when we deem competition and peer pressure unhealthy? Just as a body kept safe from germs fails to build antibodies, children kept safe from competition fail to build character. Peer pressure is the key tool in directing a positive result.

Both Johnny and Sally survive their embarrassment and disappointment, respectively. (Surviving adversity is one fine lesson, as well.) Each will react differently the next time they are exposed to competition. I’d advise, keep it coming until it becomes as much a part of them as saying, “Please and Thank-you.”

Dog trainers all agree that, in order to have a well-rounded happy pet, owners must socialize them while young. Their brilliant premise is built upon other dogs correcting un-dog-like behavior while dogs are formative.

No, I don’t think kids are animals but as human beings (who are basically very good and much more complex) they have an awful lot to learn from peer pressure.

Now, consider kids who have been protected from “real life” lessons (tears, anger, sympathy and hurt) and plop them in front of video games. No peer pressure in video games. There is one objective…WIN. Nameless, cold opponents don’t cry. Flaunting is encouraged AND if you don’t win, you can quit by pulling a plug!

Funny thing is, another misguided solution would be to take the video games away too. Apparently, some people aren’t getting the BIG picture.

An Act of Conservation

032It’s true that we seem to have many conveniences at our camp. Certainly, not traditional “camping” .  There are still many lessons in conservation that we learn. Many things, that being hooked to ordinary power and city water, would not teach us.

Our electricity comes from a gas-powered generator. The price of gas certainly keeps us vigilant in multitasking when we start the generator. Just yesterday, Ed and I set up Katherine’s swimming pool. We have a shallow well which is overflowing , right now, but may be reduced to a trickle in the near future. Filling the pool was an exercise in “using before losing”.  Also, I needed to vacuum my camper. I didn’t just start the generator for one task. When Ed ran the pool filter, I vacuumed and charged my Kindle too. We also charge large batteries and, by using a power inverter, are able to run the generator much less often.

We keep our food and beverages in ice chests. As the sun crosses the site, we move the coolers to the shady spots and we don’t linger over an open lid, either. That kind of browsing in front of an open refrigerator (by kids) drives us nuts at home. Conservation of energy and supplies becomes a lifestyle to those who learn from remote living. Power,water, propane gas and refrigeration are all resources that come from exhaustible sources. Whenever possible, I heat water to boil on our campfire instead of running our propane stove. One thing we have plenty of, is wood. But wood takes time, effort and gasoline to harvest too.

Another thing that we are very conscientious about is warmth. On a warm day, we open our camper shades and windows to make good use of the sun’s offering but have a keen sense, when to close them, as the day turns cooler. Everything we do is an act of conservation, in one way or another. With practice, it is such an automatic purpose that we often decide to act in the same moment.

Ed asks: “Do you think we should close up the camper now?”

I answer: “I just did it.” 🙂

I think that there would be far less waste, in this country, if everyone spent a summer vacation under these conditions, at least once.

Within Reason

A day and night spent in the forest, always inspires me to think more clearly. I write this post after one such excursion. Anyone who knows me, understands my mind is always searching for examples to further explain my personal principles. Mother Nature never disappoints me in that endeavor.

I align myself with conservatives. Conservatives have a healthier respect for caution and personal responsibility in the greater number of decisions made directing our futures.

At this point, you may be a thinking human being and want further proof or you’ve decided I am a toxic source and therefore, could not impart any wisdom that would apply to your situation. Since, my blog is mostly a medium I use to inform my kids, grand kids and loved ones, I care not whether you read further.

It is important to mention that I do not espouse caution as an instrument to impede change because I also believe in the natural principle of “evolve or die”.

I’d like to share an actual event where caution and careful consideration saved the day.

A group of friends and I were fishing in a river in upstate New York. We had fished our native areas, elsewhere, long enough to recognize all fish species that were native to our area. It wasn’t long before, one friend squealed with delight that she had a BIG one on the line. She landed an eight pound catch. Right away, the fish seemed odd. We had not seen one exactly like it before. There was an undeniable similarity to catfish. We knew catfish! I grabbed her arm, as she reached for the fish, warning that we should not be too hasty. We examined its wide “catfish-like” mouth. The group thought my reluctance a bit maddening. I picked up a nearby stick and pressed down on its lip which revealed large jagged teeth. The group gasped. Those who almost stuck their hand in, thanked me for slowing down their approach. Never once, did I tell them not to keep the fish. No doubt, slowing down the decision on something that was new to us, was annoying and time consuming but ultimately saved us a lot of grief. The fish, by the way, was a Bowfin.

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Bowfin

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A Bowfin Skeleton

I’ll detail other reasons for my conservative leanings in future posts. All I ask when discussing any philosophy with others, is that they have reasons and are willing to share them.

Kid Book Review-Loopy

I had mixed feelings about this story upon the first reading. The illustrations are wonderful but I thought the story was a little scary. Then I kid tested it. My three year old “guinea pig” listened with wide-eyed interest. Of all the books recently borrowed from the library, this one was her favorite.

I’m usually against lying to kids and using monsters and giants in order to scare them away from dangers but there ARE dangers that they cannot comprehend. This story made a big impression upon my little friend. It told about a child who forgets her favorite cuddle toy, Loopy, at the doctor’s office. The child goes through the shock of being without her toy and the worry about getting Loopy back. This journey through the child’s mind even visits the possibility of her making her own way, out of the house, to rescue poor Loopy. The author then places a few scary scenarios into play. The storybook child imagines Giants and spiders along with the danger of getting lost if she were unsupervised in the world. Finally, the story ends happily with Loopy being returned by the doctor who brings the toy home after hours.

My little friend talked about the story, and particularly the danger of going outside without permission, throughout the day. This is one fine lesson for a three year old. That age group is notorious for feeling as though they can do almost anything.

So, I have child tested and enjoyed this story and recommend it!

Loopy by Aurore Jesset …Illustrated by Barbara Korthues

Copycat!!!!

Sometimes as a child care provider, I feel more like a referee than an educator. The most frequent complaint from kids is,”They are copying me!”. Seems that every single child, at one time or another, has that complaint.

In my opinion, the old kid game of repeating every spoken word another kid says in order to irritate them is the only example of copying that requires a complaint. Ever wonder what makes the young (sometimes old ) human being feel it has to be original? I do.

We all remember hearing from our parents and telling our kids, “copying is a form of flattery.”. The indignancy of being copied is still prevalent in the immature mind, in spite of that wisdom. Certainly being original is great. Without valuing originality, where would innovation and invention be?

We don’t want to have kids become sheep, but this morning’s example of the copycat complaint speaks to something that I find baffling.

Child A and Child B interrupt my bathroom visit (as usual) both claiming an urgency to use the facilities. Child A is extremely agitated by the fact that Child B is copying her request to use the bathroom. Child B is new to toileting and once she decides to go, there is a finite amount of time for success. Child B’s request to use the bathroom may well have started as a copycat behavior but it is obvious that the need has become real. I place Child B on the toilet while Child A screams the indignity of being copied and not getting first use.

Some kids have a greater sensitivity to the “copycat offense”. Amusingly, those same kids are the ones who do the greater amount of “copycatting” and serves as one fine example of the art of projection. “I do it, so you must also be doing it.” Liars think everyone is lying, thieves are quicker to think a lost item has been stolen…and so on. This isn’t always true and should not be accepted as a unanimous fact but sometimes it really shows where a person’s head is.

The view of innate emotions that I get from watching kids, is fascinating. I think we can learn so much from kids. Their innocence is refreshing and even their, less than stunning moments, give us so much to consider.

One prime example of a great idea that backfired: I convinced my daughter (when she was about 7) that trying to be first in my day care line-ups was boring. (I was only attempting to ease the “I’m first!” bickering.) So, she started asking to be last. Well, before long, everyone wanted to be last…Lining up is impossible without someone going first!!! I’m sure there is a wonderful lesson in that debacle. HA!!! 🙂

What IS a bully?

English: A Bully Free Zone sign - School in Be...

English: A Bully Free Zone sign – School in Berea, Ohio (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My sister and I just had a conversation about bullying which made me realize what a complex subject it is. The discussion began, as most bullying discussions do, with a specific example of a kid she knows who is a “victim” of bullying.

Now, you may ask why I put victim in quotation marks? Well, it seems in cases of bullying often there are many players and the victim just may not be easily identified. Don’t shake your head. It isn’t always the big scruffy kid and it rarely is totally one-sided.

No, it is not alright to pursue and badger someone incessantly.

No, it is never okay to hit someone.

How can we be sure that they, the “bullier” and the bullied, are victims of the purest form? Are we to believe that in our society the preponderance of bullying involves one weak, unsuspecting victim and one mean spirited person who picked them at random?

C’mon.

There’s a quote from the 60s TV show Adam-12 that seems appropriate here. The two hero/police officers are standing beside their police cruiser after a day of crime fighting. One turns to the other and says, “The only thing that is black and white in our job is this car.”

Kids who are small, girls who cry, people of minority status, people with physical infirmities, etc. start off with the sympathy barometer needle tipped on their side, and they are aware of it. It shouldn’t matter that much because we are all aware of their “edge” but it has become a powerful tool in our modern, politically correct society.

Example:

Once upon a time, if Earl was an unfriendly sort of kid who tormented others, Earl would not get invited to Birthday Parties or be asked to play games. Earl just might have a chance to see the error of his ways by the natural course of things and learn to play nicely.

Nowadays, Earl must be included. Many Kindergarten classes insist that all kids are invited to play, no exceptions. The natural order of consequences are disturbed and Earl realizes he need not get-along at all. If anyone attempts to straighten Earl out, and Earl has a special need, he realizes he is ALL powerful because, after all, the kids are automatically (Get the black and white deal?) discriminating against him. Earl is not stupid and learns that he need not even try as long as he can use the “D” word. Ah, discrimination is the most powerful word.

I know! All you can imagine are poor special need kids or minority kids huddled in a corner abused and forgotten. We must make sure that they are treated fairly! No we don’t. Their siblings and friends will be there. The only kids who need protecting are those with the inability to learn social lessons, such as, autistic kids.

Little kids are not like that and I maintain, the Big kids without compassion were once little kids who never learned the social lessons. I trust little kids more than anyone else (except for dogs) to have compassion. Small children almost always like anyone who plays nicely. Don’t forget, minority and special needs kids are capable of being brats. Being excluded for bad behavior would be the best medicine for any and all brats. Besides, the perceived weaklings are more than their disadvantage alone. By considering them disadvantaged we label them as disadvantaged!

Gosh, I remember being protected from getting hurt on a baseball field because I was a girl. I thought our society was interested in equality. Wearing labels just works contrary to that, don’t you think?

As for bullying, this blanket protection of the crying and weak has a direct hand in the increasing incidences. To step in when kids are “at odds” keeps them from learning the social lessons they will need. Which are:

  • play fair and consider the feelings of others or you will not get along and have friends.
  • being too sensitive doesn’t work and it’s your own job to get along. (Just this morning, one day care child kept telling me another wasn’t “being nice” to her. Upon investigating the crime, I realized, the child who was complaining just wanted the other one’s attention. My answer was, “Well, invite her nicely to play.”)
  • a person’s character is who they are, not any other variable.
  • Everything is NOT always fair and that is a fact.

While I am making this old-fashioned and controversial presentation, I want to add another insult to the politically correct utopians. Yes, there are varying degrees of being a victim too.

WHAT? <GASP> A victim is a victim!

No…a person who leaves his/her keys in their car and has it stolen is less of a victim than one who has their car hot wired and stolen. Stealing IS wrong and shouldn’t happen. NEWS FLASH…it does happen.Take some responsibility people.

And if you swim in a canal in Florida, there’s a chance an alligator may bite you too. What a world, what a world! 🙂

Heart-shaped Box ~ Book Review

I picked this book off of the library shelf because I liked the cover. Yes, that is what got me to look it over. With all the books to choose from it can be THAT simple.

Well, I’m always struggling to decide what makes me like a book. Sometimes, it’s just because they hold my interest and have an ending that doesn’t disappoint me.

This book is a modern ghost story. I love a good ghost story. This one had me turning pages at a furious rate. There was frequent bad language and a few sexual references that make this not for youngsters but it fit into the story of an aging rock star with a seedy past.

I found the dilemma that the characters faced believable enough to follow and enjoy. Their internal voices and instincts were not silly like those who always chase “bumps” in the night. The ghosts were creative and cool too.

This book won’t go down as a classic but it kept me happily entertained and wanting more. There are some lessons, the famed “Be careful what you wish for.” and the destructive power of money and fame along with the indiscretions of youth literally coming back to haunt the protagonist. I’ve put a few Stephen King novels down due to sexual content that seemed misplaced and for shock value only. In my opinion, those brief references in this story are not like that. I say this only as a warning to those who find such material impossible to get past in any story.

I’d recommend this to anyone who enjoys a scary thriller. Anyone who loves Stephen King might find this one right up their alley.